Yesterday I got one of those funny ha-ha e-mail forwards that usually turn out to be fake. It shows a childish drawing of a stick-figure woman apparently dancing on a pole, with a crowd of stick-figure men holding dollar bills. It says, in crayon, "When I grow up I want to be like Mommy!" The e-mail relates the horrified note that Mommy sent to school the next day — "I am not an exotic dancer! I work at Home Depot; that's me selling a shovel."
I'm 99.9 percent sure the picture is phony, but it also brought up some memories around Casa de Boy, because when The Boy was born, his daddy sold shovels — not at Home Depot, at the competition. Then, shortly thereafter, he went to work as a bouncer at a local gentleman's club. It was actually a return engagement; he was working there when I met him in 1999. And no, I didn't meet him at the club, wiseacres. I met him in my front yard on a Saturday morning. He was lost and needed directions to the nearest Starbucks. I stormed out onto the balcony and cussed him out for waking me up, and he thought, "That's the shrieking harridan I want to marry." But that's a story for another day.
Contrary to popular belief, being a bouncer at a gentleman's club does not mean you stand against the wall with your arms crossed and watch naked ladies dance. You also get to clean the club after closing, wrangle dysfunctional customers and dancers for 10 hours straight (more on the days the club is open for lunch) and sometimes even cook the "five-star buffet." You're guaranteed at least one fistfight per shift, and said fistfight often ends with you rolling around on the asphalt in the nasty parking lot, which will necessitate having your tuxedo dry-cleaned or, depending on the worthiness of your opponent, replaced at your own expense. Oh, and you have the added bonus of having every other yahoo who comes through the door say, "Boy, can you believe you get paid to do this? You're one lucky sumbitch!"
Luck does not enter into it. The fact of the matter is that my husband's GED and his Marine Corps résumé qualify him for two kinds of jobs: the jobs where he lifts things and the jobs where he hits people. He lifted things long enough for his warehouse health insurance to get The Boy here. Then he went back to hitting people, because the money is better there. Not a whole lot better, but better. Of course, you also have to take into account the lack of health insurance when you balance out the money. The only thing that sucks worse than having no health insurance is having no health insurance at a job where you are likely to get your teeth knocked out or your nose broken, to say nothing of the sheer volume of high-quality germs and viruses you're exposed to when you work all day with nekkid people.
"You should drink some tea with honey," I suggested helplessly when my husband developed his third sore throat of the winter.
"I don't want to drink tea with Honey," he rasped. "She's nasty."
On the days my husband worked doubles, The Boy and I would bring him a Starbucks to help get him through the night. We'd hand it out the car window to him, and then we'd go home and start the long wait until 3 or 4 a.m. when he would finally be home. The next morning was more waiting, because he'd need to sleep until at least noon to rest up for his shift. We saw each other for a couple of hours a day. It was lonely and miserable. As soon as The Boy was old enough, I went back to work, and my husband quit the club. We have not regretted it for one day.
If a teacher asked The Boy to draw a picture of what his daddy does today, he would probably put himself in the picture, too. He and his daddy hike the James River, go to the playground, chase each other through the yard and cuddle up in the bed for naptime. His daddy is there when he wakes up, and still there when he goes to sleep. There would not be a naked lady or a shovel in sight, just one happy daddy and one smiling, well-loved little boy.
Now that's what I call lucky.